Steven Heighton

Three approximations of poems by Paul Celan


Paul Celan

What was written caves in,
what was spoken, seagreen,
flames in the bays,

among the molten names
the porpoises race,

here, in the eternalled nowhere,
in memory of the over-
knelling bells in—(but where?)—

in this
is gasping, who
from beneath it
shimmers up, shimmers up, shimmers up?

Ice, Eden

Paul Celan, German translator of Emily Dickinson

There is a country—lost—
A moon swells in its reeds—
And something gnawed by frost
(Like us) there glows and sees—

Sees, since it has eyes—
Each eye an earth, aglint—
The night, the night, the lyes—
Es sieht, das Augenkind.*

It sees, it sees—we see—
Before this hour is done
I see you, and you too see—
The ice will rise, like bone

*--“It sees, this eye-child”

Afternoon With Circus & Citadel

Paul Celan

In Brest, by the flaming rings,
in the tent where the tiger sprang,
I heard you singing, End-of-Things,
I saw you standing, Mandelstam.

The sky hung over the havens,
the gulls over the harbour cranes.
What’s finite sang and what’s constant—
gunboat, “Baobob”’s your name.

I saluted the tricolour banner
with a Russian syllable—
things lost were lost no longer—
our heart, a citadel.